A complaint was made after the advert triggered the Echo Dot to attempt a Purina cat food order.
Amazon’s Alexa, which is the intelligent assistant at the heart of every Echo smart speaker, is only meant to respond to its owner(s) commands. However, one Echo Dot owner in the UK has filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) after a TV ad triggered their Dot to attempt a Purina cat food order.
Adverts containing commands for Alexa aren’t meant to do that. During Amazon’s 90 second Super Bowl advert this year the word “Alexa” is spoken 10 times, but no Echo speakers were triggered. That’s because, as Bloomberg explained earlier this month, Amazon uses a couple of techniques to stop it happening (audible command filtering and use of sounds outside of human hearing range).
As The Guardian reports, for some reason, the UK ad still managed to trigger this person’s Echo Dot, which then proceeded to try and confirm an order for Purina cat food. The owner cancelled the order, but lodged a complaint in an attempt to get the ad banned. Amazon has since confirmed the order was triggered on the device, but also reminded everyone that the order needs to be confirmed to actually happen. So in this case no cat food was ordered.
The ASA decided the ad was not in breach of the UK advertising code. However, you can be sure Amazon is investigating why it happened and will take the required action to stop it happening again. If nothing else, it’s embarrassing for a smart speaker to do something that’s not very smart.